Posts Tagged ‘U.S. military’

US Sends Supersonic Bombers in Show of Force Against North Korea

June 20, 2017

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea says the United States has flown two supersonic bombers over the Korean Peninsula in a show of force during joint military drills.

U.S. and South Korean warplanes regularly conduct drills, but Tuesday’s flights came shortly after the death of a U.S. college student who was recently released by North Korea in a coma following more than 17 months of captivity.

South Korea conducts joint drill with US supersonic B-1B Lancer bomber (file picture) after North Korea's latest ballistic missile test

B-1 bomber flyover. File photo

Seoul’s Defense Ministry said the B-1B bombers were part of routine exercises with South Korea aimed at showing deterrence against North Korea. The U.S. military said the bombers conducted drills with the Japanese and South Korean air forces, demonstrating solidarity with the U.S. allies.

The United States stations tens of thousands of troops in South Korea and Japan.

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U.S. Repositioning Aircraft Over Syria as Tensions Rise

June 19, 2017

WASHINGTON — The U.S. military said on Monday it was repositioning its aircraft over Syria to ensure the safety of American air crews targeting Islamic State, as tensions escalate following the U.S. downing of a Syrian military jet on Sunday.

“As a result of recent encounters involving pro-Syrian Regime and Russian forces, we have taken prudent measures to re-position aircraft over Syria so as to continue targeting ISIS forces while ensuring the safety of our aircrew given known threats in the battlespace,” said Lieutenant Colonel Damien Pickart, a spokesman at U.S. Air Forces Central Command.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart)

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Russia To Target U.S. and Coalition Aircraft Over Syria

June 19, 2017

Russia steps up rhetoric after U.S. fighter shoots down Syrian government jet

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June 19, 2017 10:33 a.m. ET

MOSCOW—Russia escalated tensions with the United States Monday, promising to actively track U.S. and coalition aircraft over Syria with air defense systems and warplanes, the country’s defense ministry said.

In a statement released Monday, the Russian military said it would treat U.S. and coalition operating west of the Euphrates Rivers as “aerial targets,” but stopped short of threatening a shootdown.

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Russia warns US-led coalition over downing of Syrian jet

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Defence ministry says planes flying west of Euphrates will be treated as targets and that it has suspended safety agreement with US

A US navy F/A-18 Super Hornet
The Pentagon confirmed that a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet had shot down a Syrian warplane on Sunday. Photograph: US DoD handout/EPA

Russia’s defence ministry has said it will treat any plane from the US-led coalition flying west of the Euphrates river in Syria as a potential target, after the US military shot down a Syrian air force jet on Sunday.

The ministry also said it was suspending a safety agreement with Washington designed to prevent collisions and dangerous incidents in Syrian airspace.

According to the Pentagon the Syrian jet in question had dropped bombs near US partner forces involved in the fight to wrest Raqqa from Islamic State (Isis) control. It was the first such US attack on a Syrian air force plane since the start of the country’s civil war six years ago.

In an apparent attempt at deescalation, Viktor Ozerov, the chairman of the defence and security committee at the upper chamber of Russian parliament, described the defence ministry’s statement as a warning. “I’m sure that because of this neither the US nor anyone else will take any actions to threaten our aircraft,” he told the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency. “That’s why there’s no threat of direct confrontation between Russia and American aircraft.”

Ozerov said Russia will be tracking the coalition’s jets, not shooting them down, but he added that “a threat for those jets may appear only if they take action that pose a threat to Russian aircraft”.

The deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said the US strike “has to be seen as a continuation of America’s line to disregard the norms of international law.

“What is this if not an act of aggression? It is, if you like, help to those terrorists that the US is fighting against, declaring they are carrying out an anti-terrorism policy.”

The Russian response increases the risk of an inadvertent air fight breaking out between US and Russian warplanes in the skies above Syria.

The US military confirmed that a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet had shot down a Syrian SU-22 on Sunday. The US said the Syrian jet had dropped bombs near Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters who are aligned with US forces in the fight against Isis. Damascus said its plane had been on anti-Isis mission.

Col John Thomas, a spokesman for US Central Command, said there were no US forces in the immediate vicinity of the Syrian attack but that the SDF was under threat for more than two hours.

The growing risk of a direct confrontation between the US and Russia follows a decision by Donald Trump to grant his military chiefs untrammelled control of US military strategy in Syria.

Tensions have also been bubbling between Washington and Moscow over efforts to dislodge Isis from its Raqqa stronghold.

Russia, a staunch supporter of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, has been pressing the US to make the removal of Isis a joint land and air operation, but discussions over Syria’s long-term political future appear to have ground to a halt, leaving the US military to operate in a political vacuum.

The SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters working alongside western special forces, said it would take action to defend itself from Syrian warplanes if attacks continued.

The Trump administration has promised to improve arms supplies to the SDF after it concluded that it was the force most capable of freeing Raqqa from Isis.

In a sign of how complex the Syrian peace process has become, Russian-sponsored peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, are scheduled to resume on the same day – 10 July – as talks convened by the UN in Geneva.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, announced the date on Monday in the knowledge that it would coincide with the UN schedule. He also said that the UN’s Syria envoy, Staffan de Mistura, would take part.

A spokesman for de Mistura said “the subject is currently being discussed”.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/19/russia-target-us-led-coalition-warplanes-over-syria

Russia halts US aviation cooperation over downing of Syrian jet

June 19, 2017

AFP, Reuters and The Associated Press

© Omar haj kadour, AFP | A Syrian army jet fires rockets over the village of Rahbet Khattab in Hama province on March 23, 2017.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-06-19

The Russian defence ministry said Monday that it was halting aviation cooperation with the United States after the US downed a Syrian government warplane on Sunday, a move one Russian official described as a clear “act of aggression”.

The Russian defence ministry said it was halting cooperation with Washington within the framework of the Memorandum on the Prevention of Incidents and Ensuring Air Safety in Syria, effective immediately. It also accused the United States of not using the proper communication channels before shooting down the Syrian army jet.

“The command of the coalition forces did not use the established communication channel for preventing incidents in Syrian airspace,” the ministry said, adding that Moscow “ends cooperation with the American side from June 19”.

Moreover, any coalition aircraft flying to the west of the Euphrates will be treated as targets, the defence ministry said.

“Any flying objects, including planes and drones of the international coalition, discovered west of the Euphrates river will be tracked as aerial targets by Russia’s air defences on and above ground.”

URGENT: Russian military halts Syria sky incident prevention interactions with US as of June 19 – Moscow https://on.rt.com/8f9g pic.twitter.com/w27zQsyy5y

RT

@RT_comCoalition’s airborne objects in Russian Air Force’s Syria missions areas to be tracked as targets – Moscow https://on.rt.com/8f9g  pic.twitter.com/PHqYQjI6Yo

Voir l'image sur Twitter

Russia previously suspended the memorandum of understanding on air safety in April to protest against US airstrikes launched in response to a suspected chemical attack.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, on Monday firmly condemned the United States for shooting down the Syrian plane, calling it an “act of aggression”.

“This strike has to be seen as a continuation of America’s line to disregard the norms of international law,” Ryabkov told journalists in Moscow on Monday, the TASS news agency reported. “What is this if not an act of aggression?”

Ryabkov said the Kremlin had also warned the United States not to use force against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a longtime Moscow ally.

A Syrian jet plane

The incident marked the first time an American fighter jet had taken down a Syrian warplane, which Washington accused of attacking US-backed fighters.

The tensions come as the US-led coalition and allied fighters battle to evict the Islamic State (IS) group from its Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.

>> Read more: MSF says 10,000 Syrians flee Raqqa as battle for the city nears

The Syrian jet was shot down after regime forces engaged fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance battling IS jihadists with US support, in an area close to Raqqa. The American F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down the Syrian SU-22 around 7pm as it “dropped bombs near SDF fighters” south of the town of Tabqa, the coalition said in a statement.

It said that several hours earlier, regime forces had attacked the SDF in another town near Tabqa, wounding several and driving the SDF from the town.

The coalition said the Syrian warplane had been shot down “in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defence of Coalition partnered forces”.

Syria’s army disputed the account, saying its plane was hit while “conducting a mission against the terrorist Islamic State group”.

It warned of “the grave consequences of this flagrant aggression”.

International imbroglio

The SDF entered Raqqa for the first time earlier this month and now holds four neighbourhoods in the east and west of the city.

In a further escalation of military action in Syria, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said it launched a series of missiles into Syria on Sunday in revenge for deadly attacks on its capital that were claimed by the Islamic State group. It said the missiles were “in retaliation” for a June 7 attack on the parliament complex and the shrine of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that killed 17 people.

Assad has focused his forces further east, to the oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor, which is largely under IS group control and where government forces are besieged in part of the provincial capital.

Outside of coalition operations, US forces have only once directly targeted the regime – when Washington launched air strikes against an airbase it said was the launchpad for an alleged chemical attack that killed more than 80 civilians in April.

The Kremlin denounced those US strikes as an “aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law”.

Syria’s war began in March 2011 with anti-government protests but has since spiralled into a complex and bloody conflict that has killed more than 320,000 people and become a proxy war for regional powers as well as ensnaring the United States and Russia.

Interfax reported that Ryabkov and the US under secretary of state, Thomas Shannon, would meet in St Petersburg on June 23 to discuss persistent tensions in bilateral ties.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)

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The Syrian SU-22 fighter bomber was shot down by an American F18 Super Hornet after it had dropped bombs near the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces north of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil)-held city of Raqqa in northern Syria.

The US, which has special forces troops in the area, had earlier sent a warning to the Syrian military to stop targeting the forces and called on Russia to rein in its ally, but they were ignored.

Russia, which intervened militarily to back the Syrian regime in 2015,on Monday condemned the US action, saying it flouted international law.

“It is, if you like, help to those terrorists that the US is fighting against, declaring they are carrying out an anti-terrorism policy,” Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, said, adding it was a “dangerous escalation”.

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Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the international affairs committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament, said: “It is hard for me to choose any other words but these: if you [the US] can’t help you should at least not interfere. As your ‘efforts’ once again do nothing but help the militants.

“You are fighting the wrong party: it is not the Syrian army that perpetrates terror attacks in European capital cities.”

See the whole report:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/18/us-forces-shoot-syrian-jet-first-time-move-described-self-defence/

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President Trump’s authorization of an additional 4,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan — To Be Successful, Pakistan Must Close “Safe Areas” to Taliban

June 19, 2017

Senior Fellow Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution says President Trump’s authorization of an additional 4,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan is meant to “slow the gradually deteriorating military situation in Afghanistan.

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Michael O’Hanlon. Credit Jeffrey MacMillan

“The additional 4,000 U.S. troops are meant to be trainers and advisors and to give the government and military of Afghanistan to solidify itself against the Taliban,” O’Hanlon said today.

He also said that Pakistan can help in the effort to reach stability in Afghanistan by closing any “safe areas” available to the Taliban in Pakistan, particularly in the Tribal Areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

— Peace and Freedom reporter

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WASHINGTON — When President Trump made his first major decision on the war in Afghanistan, he did not announce it in a nationally televised address from the White House or a speech at West Point.

Instead, the Pentagon issued a news release late one afternoon last week confirming that the president had given the defense secretary, Jim Mattis, the authority to send several thousand additional troops to a war that, in its 16th year, engages about 8,800 American troops.

Mr. Trump, who writes avidly on Twitter about war and peace in other parts of the world, said nothing about the announcement. But its effect was unmistakable: He had outsourced the decision on how to proceed militarily in Afghanistan to the Pentagon, a startling break with how former President Barack Obama and many of his predecessors handled the anguished task of sending Americans into foreign conflicts.

The White House played down the Pentagon’s vaguely worded statement, which referred only to setting “troop levels” as a stopgap measure — a tacit admission of the administration’s internal conflicts over what to do about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.

With a president who ran for office almost never having talked about the war, a coterie of political advisers who bitterly oppose deeper American engagement in it, and a national security team dominated by generals worried about the consequences if the United States does not act quickly, the decision could succeed in buying time for Mr. Trump and his advisers to fully deliberate over what to do in Afghanistan.

But former commanders and military scholars said that in sending troops before having a strategy, Mr. Trump has put the cart before the horse, eroded the tradition of civilian control over the military, and abdicated the president’s duty to announce and defend troop deployments.

“A commander in chief keeps control of limited wars by defining missions, selecting commanders and setting troop levels,” said Karl W. Eikenberry, a retired lieutenant general who was a top commander and the American ambassador in Afghanistan. “To delegate any of these is dangerous.”

The decision to send additional troops represents at least a temporary victory for Mr. Mattis and Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser, over Mr. Trump’s aides, including his chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, who had warned that sending more troops was a slippery slope toward nation building, anathema to nationalists like him who reject both the interventionist neoconservatives of the George W. Bush administration and the limited war fought by Mr. Obama.

Those objections stymied the troop proposal several weeks ago. But officials said the White House was rattled by a huge truck bomb in Kabul, the Afghan capital, that killed more than 150, as well as by fears that military trends are running against the government of President Ashraf Ghani, an American-friendly former World Bank official, to the point that it might be in danger of collapse.

General McMaster — who served in Afghanistan as the head of an anti-corruption task force and is closely allied with Mr. Mattis, another former general with Afghanistan experience — argued passionately to Mr. Trump that the military effort had to be expanded without further delay, according to one official.

“What we are seeing now is that the president has acknowledged that the Afghan mission is important, and we ought to do it right,” said James Jay Carafano, a national security specialist at the conservative Heritage Foundation who advised Mr. Trump’s presidential transition.

White House officials say they are still debating America’s role in Afghanistan — one senior adviser said they would consider issues as basic as whether the country needs a strong central government, rather than the warlords who have historically divided power there. In the meantime, the Pentagon is moving ahead with plans to send 3,000 to 5,000 troops to try to stabilize the country.

But it is not clear what Mr. Trump’s view of the strategy is, or even how involved he is in the debate. Officials said he did attend two National Security Council meetings last week — the first to discuss the troop issue, and the second to discuss the broader policy for South Asia.

Read the rest:https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/18/world/asia/us-troops-afghanistan-trump.html?mcubz=2&_r=0

Russian diplomat: U.S. downing of Syrian warplane is ‘support of terrorists’: TASS

June 19, 2017

Image may contain: airplane

Moscow sees the downing of a Syrian government warplane by the United States as an “act of aggression and support of terrorists”, TASS news agency quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying on Monday.

(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov)

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The truth is, the U.S. has communicated with Russia and Syria many times not to fly in a threatening manner in certain areas. The consequences of Syria’s Russian-supported actions are clear. Russia’s answer is more fake news and propaganda. Peace and Freedom Editor

Russia’s Lavrov calls on U.S. to respect Syria’s integrity — After U.S. Shoots Down Syrian Jet

June 19, 2017
Reuters

The United States should respect Syria’s territorial integrity and refrain from unilateral actions in this country, Russian news agencies quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying on Monday.

Lavrov made his remarks after a U.S. warplane shot down a Syrian army jet on Sunday in the southern Raqqa countryside, with Washington saying the jet had dropped bombs near U.S.-backed forces and Damascus saying the plane was downed while flying a mission against Islamic State militants.

Lavrov also said that a new round of peace talks on Syria in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana would tale place on July 10.

(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov)

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U.S. Says It Shot Down Syrian Aircraft

Move marks the first time coalition forces have struck a regime plane in the nation’s civil war

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Updated June 18, 2017 11:01 p.m. ET

An American warplane shot down a Syrian government jet on Sunday, the Pentagon said, marking the first time in Syria’s civil war that a U.S. pilot has struck a regime plane and signaling an increased willingness by the Trump administration to directly challenge President Bashar al-Assad and his allies.

On Sunday, the U.S. military said it had shot down the Syrian SU-22 after regime forces twice attacked members of American-backed…

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Pentagon: US shoots down Syrian aircraft for first time

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows warplanes inside the Kweiras air base, east of Aleppo, Syria, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. (SANA via AP)

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The U.S. military on Sunday shot down a Syrian Air Force fighter jet that bombed local forces aligned with the Americans in the fight against Islamic State militants, an action that appeared to mark a new escalation of the conflict.

The U.S. had not shot down a Syrian regime aircraft before Sunday’s confrontation, said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. While the U.S. has said since it began recruiting, training and advising what it calls moderate Syrian opposition forces to fight IS that it would protect them from potential Syrian government retribution, this was the first time it resorted to engaging in air-to-air combat to make good on that promise.

The U.S.-led coalition headquarters in Iraq said in a written statement that a U.S. F-18 Super Hornet shot down a Syrian government SU-22 after it dropped bombs near the U.S. partner forces, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces. The shootdown was near the Syrian town of Tabqa.

The U.S. military statement said it acted in “collective self defense” of its partner forces and that the U.S. did not seek a fight with the Syrian government or its Russian supporters.

According to a statement from the Pentagon, pro-Syrian regime forces attacked the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces-held town of Ja’Din, south of Tabqah in northern Syria, wounding a number of SDF fighters and driving the SDF from the town.

Coalition aircraft conducted a show of force and stopped the initial pro-regime advance toward the town, the Pentagon said. Following the pro-Syrian forces attack, the coalition called its Russian counterparts “to de-escalate the situation and stop the firing,” according to the statement.

A few hours later, the Syrian SU-22 dropped bombs near SDF fighters and, “in collective self-defense of coalition-partnered forces,” was immediately shot down by a U.S. F/A-18E Super Hornet, the Pentagon said.

“The coalition’s mission is to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria,” the Pentagon said, using an abbreviation for the Islamic State group. “The coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian or pro-regime forces partnered with them, but will not hesitate to defend coalition or partner forces from any threat. ”

U.S. forces tangled earlier this month with Syria-allied aircraft in the region. On June 8, U.S. officials reported that a drone likely connected to Iranian-supported Hezbollah forces fired on U.S.-backed troops and was shot down by an American fighter jet. The incident took place in southern Syria near a base where the U.S.-led coalition was training Syrian rebels fighting the Islamic State group.

An Army spokesman at the Pentagon said at the time that the drone carried more weapons and was considered a direct threat, prompting the shootdown.

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Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.

The Latest: Afghan Soldier Wounds 7 American Soldiers

June 17, 2017

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Latest on the shooting of several U.S soldiers by an Afghan army soldier (all times local):

9:30 p.m.

The U.S. military says that seven America soldiers were wounded in the insider attack by an Afghan soldier. A statement on the Resolute Support Twitter feed Saturday says the seven were wounded when an Afghan army soldier opened fire. The attacker was shot and killed and one Afghan soldier was wounded. There were no U.S. fatalities.

A Taliban spokesman praised the attack but did not claim responsibility.

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7 p.m.

Afghan officials say that at least four foreign soldiers have been wounded after an Afghan soldier opened fire on them, while the U.S. military confirms that at least some of the casualties are American soldiers.

Abdul Qahar Araam, spokesman for the 209th Army corps, confirmed Saturday that an insider attack took place at a camp in Mazar-e Sharif. Araam said the soldiers returned fire and killed the attacker.

Gen. Dawlat Waziri, spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry also confirmed the attack.

The Resolute Support mission announced on its Twitter feed that “U.S. soldiers have been wounded” but said there were no U.S. fatalities. It said one Afghan soldier was killed and one wounded.

Last week three U.S. soldiers were killed by an Afghan soldier in eastern Nangarhar province.

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American Soldiers Wounded, Not Killed in Incident at Afghan Base: U.S. Official

June 17, 2017

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JUNE 17, 2017, 9:12 A.M. E.D.T.

Afghan National Army Engineering Branch School

Camp Shaheen

KABUL — At least one Afghan soldier was killed and several American soldiers were wounded in an incident at a base in northern Afghanistan on Saturday, a U.S. military official said.

A spokesman for the U.S. military command in Kabul denied reports by an Afghan official that Americans had been killed, but confirmed that an unspecified number of soldiers had been wounded at Camp Shaheen, which is the headquarters of the Afghan army’s 209th Corps in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

At least one Afghan soldier was killed and another wounded, the official said.

(Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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Camp Shaheen

Islamic State Sinks Its Teeth Into the Philippines

June 14, 2017

Image result for duterte salutes at service for dead soldier

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (C) salutes in front of a flag-draped casket of a slain marine at a military base in Manila on June 11, 2017, after the bodies of troops were brought back to the Philippine capital following a firefight with Muslim militants in Marawi on June 9. The June 9 street-to-street gunbattle with militants saw 13 troops killed, in a dramatic surge in the toll from the conflict, Philippine military spokesmen said. AFP

Battle for southern city, ISIS propaganda show new focus for foreign extremists

June 14, 2017 5:30 a.m. ET

The signs are mounting that the Philippines is now a primary target for Islamic State.

The southern reaches of the mostly Roman Catholic country have long been home to Muslim insurgents seeking to carve out an independent state. Until now, counterterrorism officials and experts have largely viewed local declarations of loyalty to Islamic State founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as little more than pleas for attention. That is changing.

 

One of the newest insurgent groups shocked the country three weeks ago by marching into Marawi City and waving black Islamic State flags; they are still holding around 20% of the town along with hundreds of hostages. The standoff with the Philippine military so far has claimed the lives of at least 58 security forces, nearly 200 rebels, and dozens of civilians.

Since the May 23 attack, Islamic State has taken a stronger interest in the Philippines, profiling some of the militants in its propaganda magazine Rumiyah and falsely claiming responsibility for the burning of a Manila casino that left 37 people dead; police say it was in fact a botched robbery by a heavily indebted gambler.

On Sunday, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said “it appears that al-Baghdadi himself, the leader of ISIS, has specifically ordered terrorist activities here in the Philippines.” Mr. Duterte didn’t say how he knew about Mr. Baghdadi’s instructions.

A Philippine soldier takes aim at militant positions from a rooftop in Marawi on Tuesday.

A Philippine soldier takes aim at militant positions from a rooftop in Marawi on Tuesday. PHOTO: RODY/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
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Islamic State’s spokesman, in an audio recording circulated on Tuesday, appeared to single out the Philippines for further attacks and praised the assault on Marawi.

The battle for Marawi is being waged by one of the region’s most powerful militias, and its aftermath could determine whether Islamic State can lay down a marker in the Philippines.

Some intelligence officials now worry that the Philippines’ growing profile in jihadist circles could bring more foreign fighters to its shores as Islamic State loses ground in Syria and Iraq. Amid the losses in the Middle East, Islamic State has said it was behind an array of attacks around the world, in a bid to sustain its power.

Governments across Southeast Asia and Australia already are watching the Philippines with concern as militants from Indonesia, Malaysia, Yemen and Saudi Arabia join the fight. The U.S. is getting involved: U.S. Special Operations Forces are providing support for the Philippine military in Marawi.

The danger, said an intelligence official in the Philippines, is that “the southern Philippines is becoming a cause célèbre again.”

The potential for recruiting the Philippines’ Muslim minority, whose lands were gradually taken over by waves of settlers under Spanish then American colonizers, has long drawn the interest of foreign jihadists.

Osama bin Laden was in regular contact with the late Muslim separatist leader Hashim Salamat, while the architect of the September 11 attacks on the U.S., Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, planned an attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II in Manila in the 1990s and railed against the U.S.’s support for the Philippine government in a letter to then-President Barack Obama in 2015 from detention at Guantanamo Bay.

The Philippines’ porous borders and lax immigration control also make it an attractive destination for foreign extremists, according to Sidney Jones, a terrorism expert at the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict in Jakarta. Fighters are also attracted, in part, because some of the combatants have extensive networks, Ms. Jones said.

“They’re really quite sophisticated and have a lot of resources to draw on, and that’s attractive,” she said.

The Islamic State’s emir in the Philippines is Isnilon Hapilon, a 51-year-old commander with the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group, which was seeded in the 1990s with help from al Qaeda. He swore loyalty to Islamic State in 2014, and since then has built an alliance with the Maute family, an aristocratic landowning clan who are able to command hundreds of followers.

Ms. Jones said the Mautes are likely the brains behind the Marawi operation, particularly 37-year-old Omarkhayam Maute.

Once the captain of the school baseball team in Marawi City, Omar, as he is known, studied Islam in Egypt and later married the daughter of an influential conservative cleric in Indonesia and has strong ties there. Indonesian armed forces chief Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo told reporters Monday that there were Islamic State sleeper cells in nearly every province of the country.

This image taken from undated video shows the purported leader of the Islamic State group Southeast Asia branch, Isnilon Hapilon, center, at a meeting of militants at an undisclosed location.

This image taken from undated video shows the purported leader of the Islamic State group Southeast Asia branch, Isnilon Hapilon, center, at a meeting of militants at an undisclosed location. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

Omar returned to the southern Philippines where he and his brother Abdullah Maute took the reins of the family’s local militia. The militia had been used to help settle local political scores, but in 2015, the brothers publicly aligned it with Islamic State.

Their ultimate goal, senior Philippine officials said, was to take control of Marawi, the Philippines’ largest Muslim-majority city.

Militants had initially planned to take over two or three towns in all, according to foreign-affairs secretary Allan Peter Cayetano, and declare a province of the Islamic State caliphate among the rugged mountains and forests around Lake Lanao on the island of Mindanao.

Armed forces chief Gen. Eduardo Año said the military caught a break when soldiers inadvertently interrupted the planning for the operation by raiding a safe house in Marawi where they believed Mr. Hapilon was holed up. That forced the Maute group to take up arms prematurely to help him escape.

“They were not able to fully deploy all their forces,” Gen. Año told reporters.

Military officials said they are trying to determine whether the Maute brothers are among several guerrillas killed in a battle with troops on Saturday. Their parents have been arrested as troops continue trying to clear militants from Marawi.

Mr. Duterte has already declared martial law in the area. “I did not expect it to be that bad,” he said.

Philippine soldiers patrol a deserted street in Marawi on the southern island of Mindanao on Tuesday.

Philippine soldiers patrol a deserted street in Marawi on the southern island of Mindanao on Tuesday. PHOTO:NOEL CELIS/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Write to James Hookway at james.hookway@wsj.com

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https://www.wsj.com/articles/islamic-state-stakes-claim-to-philippines-1497432604

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